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Afrotheria revisted





Rodolphe Tabuce, Laurent Marivaux, Mohammed Adaci, Mustapha Bensalah, Jean-Louis Hartenberger, Mohammed Mahboubi, Fateh Mebrouk, Paul Tafforeau, and Jean-Jacques Jaeger (online). Late Tertiary mammals from North Africa reinforce the molecular Afrotheria clade. Proc. Royal Soc. London. B274 + Electronic Supplementary Material.

Abstract: "The phylogenetic pattern and timing of the radiation of mammals, especially the
geographical origins of major crown clades, are areas of controversy among molecular biologists, morphologists and palaeontologists. Molecular phylogeneticists have identified an Afrotheria clade,
which includes several taxa as different as tenrecs (Tenrecidae) , golden moles (Chrysochloridae), elephant-shrews (Macroscelididae), aardvarks (Tubulidentata) and paenungulates (elephants, sea
cows and hyracoids). Molecular data also suggest a Cretaceous African origin for Afrotheria within
Placentalia followed by a long period of endemic evolution on the Afro-Arabian continent after the
mid-Cretaceous Gondwanan breakup (approx. 105-25 Myr ago). However, there was no
morphological support for such a natural grouping so far. Here, we report new dental and
postcranial evidence of Eocene stem hyrax and macroscelidid from North Africa that, for the first
time, provides a congruent phylogenetic view with the molecular Afrotheria clade. These new
fossils imply, however, substantial changes regarding the historical biogeography of afrotheres. Their
long period of isolation in Africa, as assumed by molecular inferences, is now to be reconsidered inasmuch as Eocene paenungulates and elephant-shrews are here found to be related to some Early
Tertiary Euramerican "hyopsodontid condylarths" (archaic hoofed mammals). As a result, stem
members of afrotherian clades are not strictly African but also include some Early Paleogene Holarctic
mammals."


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